TOP RANK BOXING AT THE “HUB” — Power hitters arrive just in time to greet the heat at the venue known for making legendary fights.
Spring heat will greet three world champions of Mexican descent and an Olympian plus a few others.
WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez (21-0, 19 KOs) headlines the card with another title defense this time against Colombia’s Miguel Marriaga (25-1, 21 KOs) at the home of gladiators called the StubHub Center. It will be televised on pay-per-view. Check your local listings.
Valdez, 26, a former Mexican Olympian, had plenty of international experience and in the past two years has ascended into another level of prizefighting. Since the last time he fought at the StubHub, the Nogales native has run up a streak of five consecutive knockout wins.
All were convincing knockouts against equally powerful fighters.
The last time Valdez entered the arena at the StubHub was not a good night. He was knocked down early in the fight against Ruben Tamayo. That knockdown proved to ignite something inside.
“I think I’ve got something personal to prove at the StubHub,” said Valdez. “I wasn’t happy with my last performance at StubHub.”
Marriaga is a serious power hitter too and with 21 of his wins coming by knockout this could be one incredible showdown.
Lately, Valdez has the look of a fighter ready to crack the pound for pound list. He’s that good.
WBO super bantamweight titlist Jessie Magdaleno (24-0, 17 KOs) is only 25 but seems like he’s been around for a decade. The southpaw slugger from Las Vegas recently defeated Nonito Donaire for the title. That’s no easy feat. Donaire may be older but still has danger written all over him.
Magdaleno decided to skip over a rematch with Donaire to take on Brazil’s Adeilson Dos Santos (18-2, 14 KOs). That infuriated the former champ and rumors surfaced that Donaire was helping Dos Santos prepare for the title challenge.
Magdaleno just shrugs at the information about Donaire, but gets excited about fighting at a venue known for legendary wars.
“There’s been so many great fights at the StubHub,” said Magdaleno who fought there once before and won by knockout in 2013 when it was called the Home Depot Center. “I always want to put on a great show. I always want to show fans there is more to me than just becoming a champion.”
Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (34-0, 24 KOs) finally makes his first defense of the WBO super middleweight title he won at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas over a year ago. He faces Ukraine’s Max Bursak (33-4-1, 15 KOs) and has a height advantage.
Injuries have been the stumbling block for the left-handed slugger from Mazatlan, Mexico. The big question: can he engage in a 12-round firefight against a rugged challenger from Ukraine and survive?
Shakur Stevenson finally makes his pro debut and it comes nearly a year after he lit up the boxing ring in the Rio Olympic Games last summer.
The speedy southpaw from Newark made a circuitous journey to the pro world and is advised by light heavyweight world champion Andre Ward and James Prince. His advisors took the Olympic silver medal winner to Top Rank because of the Las Vegas company’s success building up former Olympians.
Stevenson, 19, meets Edgar Brito (3-2-1, 2 KOs) in a six round featherweight bout. Not the usual four-rounders that most boxers partake in their pro debuts. Instead, he will take the route that other Olympians endured like Oscar De La Hoya who also began with a six-round bout during his Top Rank days.
Fighting without head gear and with smaller boxing gloves is always a shock to former amateur stars. Welcome to the fire.
A special guest of Stevenson will be two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields who is now the NABF middleweight titlist. Shields will be in the audience to support her fellow Olympian. She is expected to fight in June and August. Hopefully in a world title fight.
Francisco Santana (24-5-1, 12 KOs) reboots for another campaign as a world title contender. The Santa Maria welterweight meets hard-hitting Mexican welterweight Mahonry Montes (32-6-1, 22 KOs) of Los Mochis. There will be blood.
Santana is managed by Frank Espinoza who also manages Valdez and Magdaleno. The 30-year-old Santana has one of the better chins in the sport and will be tested again by the power-hitting Montes. This fight could be the fight of the night.
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